NESCAC News: Bomb scare shocks Hamilton

On Monday, April 13, Hamilton College officials received a phone call that would shut down the campus for much of the day. At around 9:40 a.m., the Office of Campus Security received a threat of two timed bombs and a possible shooting in the Kirner-Johnson Building. Kirner-Johnson, known affectionately as “KJ” by students, is located on the south side of campus and houses the College’s social science departments and the Nesbitt-Johnson Writing Center.
Joe Rupprecht, a first-year at Hamilton, found out about the incident as he passed KJ after his 9:00 a.m. class got out. “I initially thought it was a fire drill,” he said. That was until he noticed they were “not letting people back in,” he said in an interview.

Immediately following the call, the college began an evacuation of the Kirner-Johnson Building and placed a shelter-in-place order on the south side of campus. At 11:21 a.m., an update on the school’s emergency feed extended the shelter-in-place order to the rest of campus. Around the same time, Kirkland Police, Oneida County Sheriffs and New York State Police arrived on campus to assess the bomb threat. Madison County Sheriffs, the New York State Office of Emergency Management, the FBI and the ATF would eventually join these agencies.

Following the shelter-in-place, law enforcement used bomb-detecting canine units to search KJ for the possible threats. During the first and second sweeps of the building, two dogs got “strong hits” on a locker on the first floor of the building. At 12:12 p.m., the campus was informed by the security office that a “suspicious package [had been] found in KJ.” They were also notified that “police bomb technicians [were] en route” from Albany, and Marcy, NY. Ten minutes later, parts of south campus began evacuating to the Field House. Classes were officially cancelled at 1:40 p.m., shortly before the bomb technicians arrived at KJ. At around 3:15 p.m., security updated the campus, saying the suspicious package was “found not to be a threat.” It was later revealed the package was filled with camera equipment.

Even so, students were kept inside as a precaution while the police made secondary sweeps. At this point, some students had been locked inside without food for more than five hours. “That was the worst part,” said Katie Guzzetta, another first year at Hamilton. Guzzetta, who was locked down in the College’s science center, said her “[biology] professor was able to feed [her] a little bit” from the coffee shop in the first floor of the building.

After secondary sweeps around KJ and the surrounding area, the shelter-in-place warning was lifted on the north side of campus at 5:30 p.m., while the south side waited an extra 27 minutes to be released.

In the aftermath, Rupprecht said there was a “surprisingly small amount of speculation” as to who made the threats. Guzzetta agreed that they have “no idea how far along the police are in their search” after the remaining police left Tuesday.

When asked if the scare had made them feel less safe on campus, both students expressed a sense of realization more than fear. “I feel a little less safe, because I hadn’t ever really imagined someone would do something like that,” Rupprecht said. While he was impressed by the police response, Rupprecht “never thought something like that would happen at a small liberal arts college.” Guzzetta added, “I guess I feel a little bit less safe…no one thought something like this would happen at Hamilton.” However, she firmly believes that the call was “an empty threat” and that “Hamilton is still a very safe place.”

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